Symptoms, Transmission, Treatment and Testing
COVID-19 can spread quickly in our communities. Follow these steps to take care of yourself and protect others.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health strongly recommends all individuals wear a mask in all indoor public settings, with a strong emphasis on schools and child care settings. It is extremely important to stay home when experiencing any symptoms to prevent the spread of illness to others.
Individuals who live, work, volunteer or are admitted to any of the highest risk settings must follow the steps outlined by the Ministry of Health
What to do if you have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19
- If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), stay home until you have no fever and symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if you have gastro-intestinal symptoms) and complete the COVID-19 self-assessment for more detailed instructions:
- Inform all of your household members and close contacts* as soon as possible
- Wear a mask in public spaces and avoid vulnerable settings (such as a hospital, a long-term care home, or a retirement home) for 10 days after your fever is gone and symptoms have improved for 24 hours
- Individuals who test positive but are asymptomatic no longer have to isolate but should mask and avoid vulnerable individuals and settings for 10 days from test date
- If you test positive for COVID-19, you may receive a COVID-19 text notification from York Region with a secure link to complete a personal COVID-19 assessment form
- If you test positive on a rapid antigen test (RAT), you do not need a confirmatory PCR test to confirm you are positive
*Non-household close contact is someone who was within two metres of you for at least 15 minutes or for multiple short periods of time without appropriate measures such as masking and distancing.
Close contact or recently recovering from COVID-19
- If you are a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or someone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you are advised to wear a mask in public spaces for 10 days after your last exposure to the individual
- If you are recovering from COVID-19 or had symptoms of COVID-19, wear a mask in public spaces for 10 days after your fever is gone and symptoms have improved for 24 hours
- Avoid activities where you need to take off your mask, such as dining out
- Do not visit or work in any highest risk setting
- Do not visit anyone who is at higher risk of illness (for example, seniors, people who are immunocompromised)
COVID-19 clinical assessments
A clinical assessment centre can test, assess and provide treatment options for COVID-19. You should visit one if you have symptoms and:
- Are at higher risk for COVID-19 and need to get tested and assessed for treatment (including antiviral treatment)
- Have been directed by your primary care provider
You do not need to have a positive test result to visit. You should bring a list of your medications and a list of any important medical conditions.
COVID-19, Cold and Flu Clinics
This fall, Ontario Health is providing COVID-19, cold and flu assessment clinics.
The assessment clinic is for anyone experiencing moderate cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms who do not have access to a health care provider or has been directed by their health care provider to attend a clinic. A health care provider will thoroughly assess your symptoms and risks and help determine what actions should be taken to help you recover.
You may book an appointment at care-clinics.ca
Testing for COVID-19
Who is eligible for a PCR test?
Publicly-funded molecular or PCR testing is only available for select groups as considered high-risk and/or prioritized by the Ministry of Health. Members of the general public with mild COVID-19 symptoms are asked not to seek testing.
If you have symptoms but are not eligible for testing, assume you have COVID-19 and follow the steps for what to do if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19.
If you have questions related to testing eligibility and isolation guidelines, please call the Provincial Testing and Isolation Information Line at 1-888-777-0730, available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Sunday.
Where to get a PCR test?
PCR testing is available for eligible individuals only by appointment at local COVID-19 Assessment Centre.
Please do not attend a hospital emergency department for testing.
Please check each Assessment Centre website to confirm current eligibility, availability, hours and location:
- Oak Valley Health (Markham-Stouffville Hospital)
- Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital
- Southlake Regional Health Centre (Newmarket)
- Carefirst COVID-19 Test Centre (Markham)
Rapid Antigen Testing
Participating grocery and pharmacy locations offer free rapid antigen testing kits to the general public for at-home use to help detect COVID-19 earlier and stop the spread of the virus.
A list of participating retailers can be found at ontario.ca/rapidtest
Workplaces and other settings may use RAT for screening or work self-isolation purposes.
If your test result is positive, visit Ontario.ca/exposed and complete the COVID-19 self-assessment for more detailed instructions. You do not need a confirmatory PCR test to confirm your positive rapid test.
If your rapid antigen test result is negative, you do not need to isolate if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19. Continue to self-monitor yourself and stay home if you become sick.
Learn more about rapid antigen tests, including when it is recommended that you use one.
If you test positive for COVID-19 through a PCR test, you may receive a call from York Region Public Health to inform you of the positive test result or to inform you that you are a close contact of someone who tested positive. York Region Public Health may also reach out to you in these scenarios via text message with a secure link to complete a personal COVID-19 assessment form.
If York Region Public Health calls you:
- You may be asked to confirm your identity with your full name, address, Ontario health card number and date of birth before discussing personal health information
- A York Region phone number will show up on your phone but sometimes the call will be from a private number. If you are uncomfortable answering a call from a private number, we will leave a voicemail, with a phone number, extension and a reference number
- You will never be asked to provide your SIN number, or for money/credit card information
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has developed tips to help protect you from scammers. If you suspect that you may be the victim of a scam or fraud or have been tricked into giving personal or financial information, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.
How To Get Your PCR Test Results
The Ontario government online test results portal offers secure access to PCR test results on your computer or mobile device. Test results will be available in 1 to 6 days after your test.
Please note: the test results portal does not work with Internet Explorer or iOS 11 and older. You might also need to disconnect from your corporate network or virtual private network (VPN).
You can also check your results through the secure portal if you were tested at one of the following emergency departments or COVID-19 Assessment Centres:
York Region Public Health will only contact individuals related to a high-risk case if you receive a positive result for COVID-19 from a York Region emergency department, COVID-19 Assessment Centre, or pharmacy.
York Region Public Health does not provide testing for COVID-19.
Residents recently tested for COVID-19 or close contacts of someone identified as positive may receive a text message from the Ministry of Health with a secure link to complete a personal assessment form. All information collected is kept confidential and protected by Ontario’s strict privacy laws and will only be used for public health purposes.
The form is voluntary and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Residents can opt out by texting the word “STOP”. This tool will add another level of support for our residents and enhance York Region Public Health’s ability to follow up on all high-risk cases.
The symptoms listed on the provincial COVID-19 self-assessment tool include the most common symptoms of COVID-19. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Fever (a temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher) and/or chills
- Cough, including a barking cough or croup (continuous, more than usual, making a whistling noise when breathing)
- Shortness of breath (out of breath, unable to breathe deeply)
- Decrease or loss of taste or smell
- For children under 18 years of age: nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
- For adults over 18 years of age: muscle aches, joint pain and/or extreme tiredness
Other symptoms of COVID-19 include sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, abdominal pain, headache, pink eye or lack of appetite.
When assessing for any symptoms, the focus should be on evaluating if they are new, worsening, or different from an individual’s usual state. Symptoms should not be chronic or related to other known causes or conditions.
If you have any severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, call 911.
Complications from COVID-19 can include serious conditions, like pneumonia, and in some cases, death.
Your risk of severe disease may be higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for:
- People over 70 years of age
- People who are immunocompromised or those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease
Additional Information on COVID-19 symptoms and children, including screening guidance, testing options, and when to stay home from school or child care is available on the Staying Safe at School and child care page.
How COVID-19 Spreads - Transmission
COVID-19 transmission occurs through large respiratory droplets and smaller droplets called aerosols depending on multiple factors including:
- Forceful expulsion of respiratory droplets (e.g. singing, shouting, exercising, coughing, sneezing)
- Amount of virus present (e.g. more virus is present early in an individual’s infection)
- Type of contact (e.g. longer and closer contact with an infectious person is associated with higher risk)
- Environmental conditions (e.g. being outdoors and good ventilation are associated with lower risk)
- Personal protective measures (e.g. physical distancing, wearing a well-fitted mask and being vaccinated reduce the risk)
Under certain factors aerosols can remain suspended in the air for some time and play a role in transmission at longer distances.
Wearing a well fitted mask, physical distancing and being outdoors or in well-ventilated indoor spaces all reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 droplet and aerosol transmission.
The highest risk for transmission still remains close prolonged contact (generally less than two metres) with an infected individual.
While our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 transmission has evolved, the key prevention measures have not changed. What we have learned is a combination of measures is the most effective way to prevent transmission.
Households have the highest risk of transmission from a case:
- Household members should follow the self-isolation guidance at Ontario.ca/exposed for instructions on who needs to self-isolate and for how long.
Contact tracing aims to interrupt the spread of disease between an infected person and the ring of close contacts around them.
Close contacts include people you live with, have had intimate relationships with or people who have cared for you or you have cared for (for example, with bathing, feeding or dressing), people that you have visited with, spent time with at school, work, or have come into your home.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms:
- Contact everyone you have been in close contact with from two days before your symptoms started until the time you started self-isolating
- There are different isolation requirements for household close contacts and non-household close contacts depending on your circumstances. For more information, go to Ontario.ca/exposed
Antiviral treatments are now available for free by prescription to treat adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at a higher risk of progressing to serious disease, including hospitalization or death. Antiviral treatments must be taken immediately within the first five to seven days (depending on the treatment) of symptom onset.
A screener tool is available to help determine if you are at higher risk and should be assessed for treatment. A positive rapid antigen test, PCR or rapid molecular test is required as part of the assessment for antiviral treatment.
If you have symptoms and are at higher risk of severe COVID-19, seek testing and care immediately by either:
- Visiting a clinical assessment centre (where you can get tested, assessed, and provided treatment or a prescription)
- Contacting a primary care provider (for example, your family doctor)
Find out more about antiviral treatment options or talk to your health care provider to learn more.
Available Antiviral Medications
Paxlovid is an antiviral medication that can be taken by mouth at home and must be taken within five days of symptoms starting.
All eligible individuals with a prescription for Paxlovid will be able to obtain it at any participating pharmacies.
Remdesivir is an antiviral medication that must be taken intravenously (IV) at a designated clinic.
Remdesivir must be taken within seven days of the start of symptoms.